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Steve’s  Bodybuilding Pilgrimage

July 2000



The Zane Experience




After a 5 hour flight from Toronto, I arrived late on Sunday evening in San Diego. Picked up my rented car and drove to La Mesa, into the hotel and into bed. Monday morning arrived without further delay, and I called Frank for directions. Soon, I was driving up the hill to Frank’s house, where the first one to greet me was the Tyler, the family dog. As you might expect, Tyler was big, and very fit. Friendly, too. I walked across the back lawn into the garden doors that lead directly into the gym.


Frank was milling about, and we quickly got acquainted. My first impression of Frank was that he is very focussed. Over the three days I spent with him, that impression proved to be correct.  He is also very candid and open. There were always questions and comments about “what is was like when … “


There were surprises. One of those surprises was Frank’s tone when he spoke of competing. He did not sound like he loved that time in his life, nor did he sound like a man who missed being in the thick of things.  In fact, he spoke of his days as a world-class competitor as something he was glad to be finished with. He indicated that to compete the way he did was a sacrifice of epic proportion, a sacrifice on many levels. His focus was so intense and complete in those days that he said he went for long periods were he did not even talk to anyone.  When I asked him if he intended to enter competition again, perhaps in the Masters Olympia, he said no, without hesitation. His goals were to reach peak condition and to present his physique to the world at some point, probably at or around his sixtieth birthday in 2002. But he seemed genuinely wary of putting himself through the rigors of competition ever again.


The Zane Experience is unusual, in that Frank is no personal trainer, in the conventional sense. He’s Frank Zane,  three times Mr. Olympia, and one of the most unique bodybuilders in history in terms of size, proportion, and posing. During the workouts, Frank was my training partner. He did a set, and I did a set. I got to watch him, watch his form, his approach, and his intensity. Then he would correct my form as I trained. That in itself was invaluable.


We did Frank’s routine. This is the routine that works for him, given his own level of experience, his goals, and his limitations. On that latter point, Frank has to deal with a 58 year old body with its attendant quirks and demands, as well as specific injuries and prior surgery. Of course I will naturally have a different set of these parameters, and so my task is to integrate these two blueprints, to come up with a revised blueprint for myself.


Frank has a new 3-way split routine, which we did over the three days I trained with him. These three days are orchestrated in descending order of physical taxation. Day 1 is upper torso, including back, chest, and shoulders.  It’s a big workout.  Day 2 is legs. Day 3 is arms, including biceps, triceps, and forearms. Additionally, all three days end with an ab workout.


As for the subject matter covered in the non-training part of the sessions, we spent lots of time discussing diet, nutrition, and supplementation.  On the third day, Frank took outdoor pictures of me posing, and then told me that it was important to have someone take photos of my physique on a regular basis, in order for me to objectively see the progress (hopefully not the lack of progress) and to have a pictorial record of that progress.  We spent a lot of time on posing technique. Frank showed me that posing began with correct foot placement, something I really did not have. He even traced the position of his on feet on a piece of taped-together construction paper with a felt marker. He rolled it up and I took it home like someone fresh from a dance lesson.  But the point was clear. This was the basic stance, a home-base from which other foot positions were born, and from where the poses grew upward like a tree would grow from its roots. The result is that my poses are beginning to look a lot better.


Then came the moment of truth – a critical assessment of my physique from a competitive standpoint.  Much of Frank’s comments were no surprise to me: My back needs lots of work; my lats disappear when I raise my arms overhead. Quads need more definition. Lower abs and serratus needs lots of work. And calves. But then there were other more surprising revelations. For example, Frank pointed out that my outer calf was quite developed, but the inner calf was the part that needed work. Moreover, he noted that the inner head was quite a bit longer than the outer head (he even marked it with a marker to show me), and that meant that I could develop a really huge inner head if I worked it. He then showed me the proper technique to work the inner head of the calf, essentially by pronating the feet somewhat while performing the various calf raises, putting more weight on the ball of the foot.



Frank’s Pre-Competition Advice

This is how he did it…



·        Sodium maintained at 1 gram/day beginning two weeks out.

·        Last workout on the Tuesday preceding the Saturday show (4 days out).

·        Legs: Stop squatting two weeks out, but continued leg extensions every day and constantly tensing and posing the legs.

·        In general, increase volume and do more exercises as the date approaches.


Carbs  For The Final Week


Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday: 100 grams carbs/day.

Thursday 150 grams carbs

Friday 200 grams carbs

Saturday (day of the show): Awakened at 6:AM. Ate a slice of baked yam, and continued to each one slice every 45 minutes or so, up to one hour before the show, for total consumption of  not more than 2 yams or so.


Frank took no diuretics and did no radical cutting of his water intake prior to the show.




Life In Venice


After saying goodbye to Frank, I got into my little rented car and drove to Santa Monica, where I checked into to the Huntley House hotel, a lovely inn I’d recommend to anyone. It’s well-situated, and a short walk to the beach. I arrived in Santa Monica late in the day on Wednesday July 5. The beaches are gorgeous, with easy friendly waves for beginner surfers, at least on that day…


I called Gold’s Gym in Venice and set up an appointment for 10:00 AM the next morning with “a trainer”. I figured, I’ll go with whatever trainer they offered. That night, I ate at Schatzi’s, the restaurant owned by Arnold and wife Maria, right near the boundary where Venice begins. The Big Guy was “out of town”, said an overly friendly maitre-d. I was still on my ketogenic diet, so I ordered an omelet.


Next morning, I arrived at the one-and-only Gold’s Gym in Venice, for my 1 hour session with “the trainer”, who turned out to be Tito Ray, a pro bodybuilder and contender for Mr. America. Gold’s looked daunting, as I’d expected it would – a massive gym with massive bodies of all ages. Males and females, and some other hybrids…


Tito was finishing up a workout. He was doing lunge-walks with an 80 pound DB in each hand, each contraction pushing a web of vascularity out from his quads. The 80 pounders then became 100s. Tito was affable and communicative, and turned out to be an excellent trainer. I explained to him I wanted to work my back, and that back was a weak point in my physique esthetic. He responded with exactly what I needed.  Unlike many pro-bodybuilders who train others and who need to show you how great THEY are, Tito focussed on my needs and my agenda. In fact, my new 4-way split is based on Tito’s split, in terms of body parts. Back and Triceps, instead of back and biceps, as the biceps are already partially spent by the time I’ve done back, but the triceps are fresh. Similarly, a day of Chest-Biceps for the same reason. I had previously been using a three-way split in order to work each body part more frequently, but I’ve gone back to a 4-way, so I can really work each body part more intensively.  To view my entire routine, go to


Here’s what Tito and I did that day.


1.      Wide-Grip Chins: When he saw my form on the chin bar, he insisted we go to the Gravitron and take 50 – 80 lbs off my 180 lb load. I never liked using the Gravitron before, because I thought it was a cop-out (you know, for wusses…) But Tito convinced me of the benefits of better form, and he was right. Chins need to be done with elbows back, chest out, shoulders back, rib cage out. That’s impossible to do when you’re struggling to make the distance. On the Gravitron, using this proper form, I felt my lats swell like never before.

2.      One-arm DB Row: Again, focus on form so I can feel the muscles. This time he had me up to a heavier poundage than I usually do, with 70 lb DBs. Here again, the end of the positive entailed a chest-out movement.  Also, we did not use a bench, just a three-legged stance, with two legs back and one arm bracing against the DB rack.  Frank Zane also did them like that.

3.      Deadlifts: Tito likes full deads, not the halfs that I was doing. I have since decided to do both, from time to time, because the halfs enable me to go to a heavier weight and develop my upper back. For the full deads, we took the weight down to single 45 plate per side, as opposed to the peak of nearly three plates a side for my halfs.  There was great attention to form.

4.      Wide-Grip Pulldown: Again, the focus was elbows back, and the buttocks back of the seat with chest out. For the first time, I feel I’m doing this common exercise correctly. For the first time, I felt my lats become rock hard and swollen as I pulled the bar down.

We finished the workout with three tricep exercises – single-arm pressdowns, EZ bar French Press / Close Grip Press supersets, and machine dips. 


Tito was great, and I would highly recommend him to anyone who goes to Venice. He can be reached directly at



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